Sexual assaults in Egypt protest everyday problems

The worldwide interest on Egypt’s revolution has brought to light the appalling number of 99.3 percent of women reported as victims of sexual harassment and violent acts and the lack of prosecution of the attackers due to women’s roles in the country and society.
The past few years have been a tumultuous for Egypt; experiencing government overthrow and a difficult transition to democracy.
Egypt’s fourth president Hosni Mubarak was ousted after almost 30 years of presidency during the 2011 Egyptian revolution. In June 2012 Egypt appointed Mohamed Morsi as their fifth president; Egypt’s first democratically elected president. In late November 2012 Morsi granted himself unlimited powers and power to legislate without judicial overview or over view of his acts. According to Morsi, it would allow him to “protect” the nation.
Thousands opposed to his almost dictatorial powers started protesting, and by the end of June, protestors surrounded the presidential palace. Many other demonstrations took place in different locations such as Alexandria, El-Mahalla and cities of the Suez Canal, all in hopes to get rid of their president. On July 3 2013 it was announced that Morsi was deposed.
The power of the people has never been as relevant as it is in the case of Egypt’s revolutions. With many taking to the streets chanting for their rights, fighting for and standing up for numerous political, religious, and social beliefs that the government has taken away from them or not given attention to.
It’s truly amazing to see that with strong opinions and voices how much citizens can take control of their country.
For women fighting for what they believe has been proven to be unsafe. Not only because of the violent outbreaks and shootings we have seen on television, but because daily sexual harassment is becoming even a greater problem now with the thousands of mobs in the streets. Hardly any protection is being granted to them as well as the victims being blamed for the assaults.
When Morsi was in presidency, it posed many threats to the rights of women in Egypt. The government enforced traditional roles and limited women’s choices. The former First Lady Naglaa Ali Mahmoud once stated in a New York Times profile that she believes in strict conservative rules for women regarding how women should dress and act. Mahmoud even said while once working in the Muslim Brotherhood workshops she instructed women that, “Men are designed to lead and women are designed to follow.”
The Muslim Brotherhood has also in the past posed as a threat for women’s rights in Egypt. The Brotherhood has put themselves as a mainstream religious and political movement for many decades. When in power, the Brotherhood blocked a law that would have harsh penalties for violence against women. At other times the Brotherhood has expressed that wives could not travel or take contraceptives without the husband’s consent.
It’s no wonder that many women in Egypt want to fight for their rights and be a part of the country’s political uprising, but their mere participation in the many demonstrations taking place are a large threat to their own welfare.
During the protests last week more than a hundred women were reported to either being raped or harassed, including two female journalist that were covering the story.
Women were reported by being attacked by mobs of men surrounding them, forming a circle, where the men would assault them with their hands, by grabbing at their breasts and genitalia and sometimes gang-raping them. Some mobs of men even harassed women with sharp objects; in one reported case a woman was raped with the barrel of a gun.
These assaults are being done in public, in large crowds of onlookers not helping these victims until the mob has finally left them. In some cases, men would approach the woman being attacked stating that he will help her, but then proceed to assault them himself. When citizens did try to step in to help a man would claim to be the victim’s husband, stating “she’s my wife” only to get her alone and assault her; at times dozens of men in a mob would be yelling “she’s my wife”.
No efforts to prosecute the attackers or investigate the crimes have been done, as a result of police staying away from Tahrir Square and other demonstrations; leaving women unprotected. The government also has not helped women’s protection by them usually trying to downplay the problem.
Without government and police help many associations have emerged in order to protect women who go out and protest at these demonstrations. Associations Tahrir Bodyguard and Operation Anti Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH) are made up of volunteers that have intervention teams. These groups rescue victims by entering mobs where assaults are taking place by using flares or Tasers and rescue the victims and then take her to a designated safe house. At times these volunteers themselves are beaten by the mobs in their efforts to help these women being victimized.
Many believe that the goals of these attacks are to intimidate women from protesting and keeping them off the streets. Citizens have even said that the women are held accountable for their assaults by walking, dressing, or acting a certain way.
When Janet Abdel Aleem’s group, Fouada, interviewed young Egyptian boys in order to get an understanding on their views on sexual assault, it revealed how social and religion at times is shaping views.
One child said, “If a lady is respectable nobody will harass her” and then went on to say that women dressed in trousers were not deemed respectable.
The UN of Women, women journalists who have experienced the situation first hand, and other organizations are bringing attention to the problem in efforts that the government, citizens, and more importantly men of Egypt put an end to these assaults.
Egypt as a country has gone through many governmental changes, with Egyptian people demanding that their government treat them right. With their voices and actions they’ve ousted two presidents and caused a revolution, but how can this be celebrated when Egyptian people, the citizens, are causing harm to their own people, Egyptian women. Women are protesting for a better and peaceful country just like the rest of the demonstrators.
If the people of Egypt put as much effort and persistence in ending the violence on women as they do in their political attempts, I am more than positive that they can put an end to sexual harassment acts.